Discover more from Untappd Insights (powered by Next Glass)
Consumer Shift in Retail Categories from Pre- to Post-COVID
2022 data indicates brewery taprooms are holding onto consumer share taken from bars and restaurants during the pandemic
Two weeks ago, we celebrated Untappd’s 12th anniversary with a huge milestone: reaching 10 million registered users on the app! Incredibly, those 10 million users have checked in well over 1 billion beers since October 22, 2010! Looking back on 12 years of data, the most interesting period in the pre-teen life of the Untappd app from a user behavior perspective were the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. We had a real-time, global view of the craft beer industry and observed as previously stable trends in drinking behavior—retail venue patronage, demographic preferences, and beer style share shifts —were totally upended.
Subscribe for free to receive next month’s article covering on-premise beer pricing trends!
Pre- and Post-Pandemic Drinking Trends: Taprooms Remain Resilient
In March 2020, as beer drinkers were forced out of bars, restaurants, and taprooms, we introduced the Untappd at Home venue option, allowing users to indicate they were drinking from home at the time of a check-in. For the first full month of sweeping lockdowns across most geographies, in April 2022, the Untappd at Home venue option accounted for 83% of all check-ins with a venue selected. Now, with the pandemic behind us and the on-premise reopen for business, Untappd at Home only accounts for a little over 25% of all check-ins with a venue selected.
In a November 2021 Brewers Association Collab Hour presentation, I shared data that indicated brewery taprooms were stealing share from other on-premise retail categories and that our user patronage at bars stood well below historical levels relative to other retail categories.
For this month’s missive, we updated that data to explore how foot traffic to bars, restaurants, and brewery taprooms has evolved from 2019 to the post-pandemic period. We indexed check-ins to January 2019 at the Brewery Taprooms, Bars + Pubs, Restaurants, and Other Retailers (a catch-all category whose largest constituents are off-premise retailers like groceries and specialty alcohol retailers) categories as a percentage of total retail check-ins to examine trends in relative share among the four categories.
As can be seen in the graph above, brewery taprooms, which were allowed to remain open in many U.S. states (particularly if they served food), proved remarkably resilient as a check-in destination amongst our users during the pandemic. As was true a year ago at the time of our Brewers Association Collab Hour presentation, the Brewery Taproom category in the U.S. has continued to take share, on a relative basis amongst our user base, from the Bars + Pubs and Restaurants categories in 2022.
The initial lockdown period from March 2020 - May 2020 decimated the Bars + Pubs and Restaurants categories, with mix shifting to our Other Retailer category, which is composed primarily of off-premise retailers. Bars + Pubs and Restaurants rebounded strongly as U.S. state restrictions lifted in late-2020 and into 2021, but check-in volumes in both categories have leveled off in 2022, remaining through September at 72% (Bars + Pubs) and 75% (Restaurants) when indexed to their overall share of total retail check-ins from January 2019.
What has caused this surge in relative Brewery Taproom category visitation as compared to flagging Bars + Pubs and Restaurants category traffic? I believe there are several drivers:
A fundamental shift in American consumer behavior - drinkers are clearly now more comfortable in outdoor beer gardens than in small indoor spaces. In our August newsletter, I presented data that showed 31 - 50 year old drinkers (those most likely to have younger, unvaccinated children) were losing share in taproom check-ins to younger and older demographic sets. Even in this “new normal” post-pandemic life, many user behavior changes persist and have not returned to 2019 levels. I think a lingering post-pandemic preference for larger spaces with outdoor seating options will allow the Brewery Taproom category to hold onto this share gain for the foreseeable future.
Continued expansion in the number of breweries vs. contraction in bars and restaurants - the National Restaurant Association estimated in the spring of 2021 that 90,000 bars and restaurants succumbed to the pandemic. On the other hand, the Brewers Association reported that 222 more breweries were operating in 2021 than 2020. There are simply more breweries relative to retailers in our Bars + Pubs and Restaurants categories than there were in 2019, meaning consumers are simply more likely to end up visiting a taproom than a bar or restaurant.
Wholesaler portfolio rationalization - many wholesalers slimmed down their craft lineups during COVID, meaning there is now less variety in the on-premise than there was pre-pandemic. The shrunken on-premise assortment means craft enthusiasts are now more likely to visit a Brewery Taproom to find new releases and craft options that are now less present in the Bars + Pubs and Restaurant categories.
On-Premise (On-Trade) Consumer Behavior in the U.S. vs. Europe
Interestingly, consumer behavior in terms of on-premise retail visitation trends is markedly different between the U.S. and Europe. As can be seen below in the graph showing the same check-in index data in Europe, restaurants on the other side of the Atlantic have held onto much more drinking share than their American counterparts. The Bars + Pubs category in Europe continues to be nearly as depressed relative to January 2019 levels as in the U.S.
One stark contrast between the European and U.S. data: How a second wave of severe lockdowns throughout much of Europe (Untappd’s biggest markets in Europe are The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Germany) impacted check-in shares between November 2020 and May 2021. European drinkers were more reluctant or unable (many on-trade establishments in Europe faced restrictions during the Omicron wave) to visit bars and restaurants during the late-2021/early-2022 Omicron wave relative to their U.S. peers.
Next Month: Checking in on Beer Prices in the U.S.
We will continue to monitor trends in our data as the global beer drinking population settles into the new normal to determine which behavior changes persist and which are transient.
Next month, we’ll use our new Untappd Insights Pricing Intelligence tool to compare beer and beer style prices throughout the U.S. in bars and restaurants!
Until then, check out our first season of Untappd Next Exit, our new video travel series on YouTube. Our host, Kenny Gould, explored the hidden-gem beer scenes in Brooklyn, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.
CEO, Next Glass